Canticle of the Creatures
THE PETRARCH PRESS’S Canticle of the Creatures presents a fresh transcription of Francis of Assisi’s original Umbrian text together with a new English translation by John Venerella. The Canticle, sometimes popularly called Canticle of the Sun, is a short song begun in Francis’s early years and completed near the time of his death. The original text, considered by many to be the earliest poetical masterpiece in the Italian language, is newly transcribed from the oldest remaining manuscript of the song – that in the thirteenth-century Assisi Codex. Francis’s charming verses in Umbrian dialect – praising God through his creations “Brother Sun”, “Sister Moon”, and the four elements – are printed with the English translation opposite.
While the text of the poem has been printed before (short texts are favorite targets for fine press publishers), most break the song into individual verses, printing them on separate pages paired with illustrations of the sun, moon, and so forth. But read in this way, the reader may miss the poetry of Francis’s text – his rhyming early Italian verses, the visual repetition of “Laudato si misignore…”, the simple naivete of his words in song. So we decided to present the full text on a single page with its English reflection facing it. A thin book? Yes, but no less monumental for that.
We designed the book to use the full sheet of handmade paper, folded into an eight-page section, which allowed us to keep both the bottom and the fore-edge deckles intact. However, these large sheets pushed the limits even of our Super Royal Albion handpress, forcing us to find creative ways to position the platen bearers so they didn’t crush the paper.
As none of us here at the Press are fluent in Umbrian, we spent many painstaking hours on proofreading and discussions with the translator. Another challenge was achieving even printing on the large page size. Although the bed on our Albion is impressively flat for a 158-year old press, the many-layered makeready resembled a most intricate mosaic by the time we were ready to print.
Two collectible limited editions of the Canticle are being issued: 6 copies printed on sheepskin parchment, and 60 copies printed on cream-colored handmade paper, produced especially for the Press by Ruscombe Mills in France. The text has been set in beautiful Poliphilus type, with large initial letters in red, designed at the Press in the style of the original manuscript initial. (See the original here.)
Our eight-page edition of the Canticle is printed in Large Quarto format. Both the paper and the parchment editions are bound in half Japanese linen with the boards covered in handmade Nepalese Lokta paper printed with our own Canticle pattern. Parchment copies are ornamented with the sun in gold leaf on the title page and are protected by a slipcase.
Canticle of the Creatures
The Petrarch Press, 2008
10 x 13-1/2 inches; pages 8.
The Petrarch Press
PO Box 488
9690 Stackhouse Lane
Oregon House, CA 95962
Tel: +1 (530) 692-9531
Fax: +1 (530) 730-2469